For those of us who have lived their lives in the Association world, Membership is a never-ending concern. Every year, some members leave your organization, for a variety of reasons – some retire, some expire, often, unexpectedly, and for unknown reasons.

It is important to stop for a moment. And think. Why does your organization experience such turnover? Why are we continually trying to drive membership?

Part of the reason, at least, is the fact that you don’t have time to do just that. Think. Understand. Respond.

Many Association professionals are simply too busy to address the Membership issue, with the kind of thought, and actions, required to address this perpetual problem.

The truth be told, in many, if not most, cases, Association professionals are too busy with tasks and issues that occupy far too much of their time. They simply don’t have the time to think strategically. To analyze the problem. To address the problem. To rectify the problem.

Governance is Good. Too much Governance is Not.

My own particular pet peeve is the time most of us spend on Governance. All those committees we simply don’t need. All those groups that don’t really generate too much in the way of meaningful outcomes.

That is not at all to say that Governance, and, for that matter, Administration, isn’t important. It is of course. But Governance, to be transparent, must be simplified, and clarified. You simply don’t need all those committees to keep members informed. Too much committee work drains your volunteers, and you, of much needed energy and attention that could be used elsewhere, as in developing Membership.

In this day and age of outstanding software and programming, specifically designed to meet the needs of Associations (think – event registration, communications, volunteer portals, payment processing), there is simply no excuse for taking up your time, and your volunteers’ time, with basic management issues.

The key is to Simplify.

Simplify your Governance. Reduce the number and size of committees. Reduce the number and duration of meetings. Simplify your life, and the lives of your volunteers, by offering just the right amount of Governance, and watch how your creativity and productivity grows. Strategize your Success. Now that you have more time, and more energy, dedicate yourself to thinking through your members’ priorities. Take the time (you now have) to reach out to those retired and expired members. Ask them why they didn’t renew.

Ask them to help you offer value-added options that meet their needs, and the needs of new members you haven’t reached. Thank them for their time. In appreciation, offer them a membership option, which will allow them to stay connected to their profession, cause or mission, that, at least at one time, meant so much to them.

Create and offer Strategic Content.

Identify and research the different segments of your membership market. If necessary, take some of the money you save from simplifying governance and operations, and invest it in research, using professional research resources. Generally, experts try to focus on uncovering, for you, the answers to the following four questions:

  1. What do members need to know to advance their career or do their job better?
  2. What resources or content do members need to be more successful?
  3. What are the issues that concern them, personally, professionally, vocationally?
  4. What are the challenges your members are dealing with that you can help them with?

Guaranteed. If you can provide valuable content (not promotional offers) that helps people solve real-life problems, you will see an uptick in membership, right away. Members will start to think of you as part of their success, not an expense to be justified. Further, by simplifying your communications, that is, by taking advantage of the software and programming that allows you to move content out to members immediately and personally, without the same organizational drag and time lags, you will be in touch, much more effectively. That, in and of itself, is a ‘selling point’, a signal you are working to be better at what you do, so your members can be better at what they do.

Then, Simplify membership.

If someone wants to join, it should be easy, intuitive, and painless. Make sure you are programmed for that to be the case. Check yourself now. How easy is it to join? How many unnecessary questions do people have to answer? What clumsy forms do they have to complete? What kinds of information are you forcing them (through the deadly asterisked ‘must answer’ questions) to provide, that may shut down the process?

No barriers. Not at the point of sale. Just smooth sailing to check out. If you are interested in learning more about your members, do it after the sale. Establish some form of simplified follow up that provides members with a benefit for revealing more about themselves, or, gives them the option to do so, when they have more time.

Get out there. Virtually, socially, and personally.

Network with like-minded providers and organizations who also target the same audiences. Be on site, either physically at their meeting, or, on their social media sites and webpages, and offer your partners a similar profile at your events. And, by all means, use special offers and pricing, to attract new members through these new avenues, where joining is facilitated.

Make membership an experience.

By simplifying, and strategizing, think through how to make your Members enjoy the Experience. The networking. The prestige. The recognition. The sharing. The Success. And remember, that part of enhancing the member experience, is by using contemporary membership management software – where the member is in charge, where the member connects with others, directly, with no administrative intermediary required.

And, the information you collect, offered by members on their own, can then be ‘used’ to deepen your understanding of their needs and preferences.

No membership experience can ever be completely seamless. But, it can be simplified. And strategic. You can successfully grow Membership.

Paul McKay

Paul McKay is Senior Advisor with McKay Associates. Feel free to get in touch with Paul through LinkedIn